The word pastor comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.” Christian ministers are shepherds of Christ’s church, and today’s reading gives us Paul as an example of pastoral oversight.
As Paul headed back to Jerusalem, he visited his earlier church plants, “speaking many words of encouragement to the people” (v. 2). Observe also that Paul’s ministry was a true partnership of leaders throughout the region. They came from Berea, Thessalonica, Philippi, Derbe, Lystra, Asia, and Ephesus, showing that Paul was not a one-man show but part of a bigger body, serving the church along with others. We see this fuller picture of leadership again when Paul met with the Ephesian leaders one final time. His work was done there, but he had appointed elders to continue the pastoral care of the church in Ephesus.
What do we learn about Paul’s pastoral heart from his exhortation to these leaders? First, he reminded them of his own leadership while with them and his willingness to suffer hardship in obedience to God’s calling. A godly pastor should be a model of humble obedience to God’s will.
Second, his central exhortation is for them to be true shepherds themselves. They must “keep watch” (v. 28) and “be on your guard” (v. 31) both for themselves and for Christ’s flock. They must watch out for false teachers (“savage wolves”) who might infiltrate the church.
But above all, Paul reminds them of God’s own love for and oversight of the church. Pastors must always remember that the church is precious because it was “bought with his own blood” (v. 28). In the end Paul committed the church “to God and to the word of his grace” (v. 32), knowing that Christ alone is the true Shepherd of His people (see 1 Peter 2:25).